I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on this blog. I’m going to post the  rough draft of a new project I just started today.

When I say ‘new project’, I mean pretty much exactly that. Right now I have a few ideas, a few characters, and a vague sense of plot and direction. All I knew when I started writing it was that I liked the idea of this halfway house between heaven (if there is a real heaven in this story; I don’t know yet) and earth, and the idea that there are many ways of falling.

Josef, one of the characters in this short prologue, believes that goodness is not determined by how far Below you go. Maybe that’s the essential idea that I’m intrigued by. The idea that’s going to make me write and plot and develop.

I didn’t spent much time editing or polishing this piece of writing. It’s just a something at this stage. But maybe it will turn out to be a decent something, eventually.

Halfway House

It sat above the earth and below heaven. Its walls hid labyrinthine passages and portals, secrets and angels. Angels that stopped here for a day at a time, or a week, or an undefined stretch of time. Time had little meaning here, but it had meaning in the places the angels were travelling to or from.

It could look different, depending on who you were – friend or foe, or something in between. As the Nowhere fog cleared in front of Ethan he saw a flight of marble steps leading up to a set of oaken double doors, massive and thick. Ethan remembered their soundless opening and closing, their noiseless hinges. The steps, the marble columns and the door, they were all the same as before. But the shadows around them were deeper.

Ethan felt very far from safe as he carried his burden to the top of the stairs. The oak doors parted silently and his feeling of dread increased. The hallway beyond was dark and desolate, shadows crowding around unlit lamps. It was as if the house was deserted. He shook off the feeling, annoyed. He had allowed himself to become afraid. It was a symptom of being Below, where the baseness of the world spread its corruption.

Ethan took deep breaths, searching for the calm centre of his mind. The feeling that he was being watched was stubborn, refusing to be pushed aside. He knew there were eyes on him. Eyes that watched from the other rooms, eyes that could pierce the darkness and the material of the house itself. He imagined the guards with their vast wings beating, bearing down on him with lightning flashing from their eyes. But if the Guardian wished him dead it would have happened already.

Once again he searched, pulling at the strands of peace that were always in his mind. Angels were peaceful. They were protectors, defenders, guardians. They believed in truth, then understanding and then, only when truth was understood, might they take action.

Ethan walked down the hallway towards the audience chamber. The thing that he carried looked like nothing but a bundle of rags and filth, but Ethan could see the white hand that rested against his arm. It felt warm, otherwise he would have guessed her dead already.

At the end of the hallway stood an angel. He was the brightest thing that Ethan had seen for days, maybe months. In his glow, no lamplight was needed. He was light itself.

“Hello Ethan. What have you got there?”

Josef was a tall, gentle angel with wise eyes and elegantly narrow wings. They were still and silent against his back as he approached Ethan. He had never gone lower than the Halfway House, and so his body bore more resemblance to the shining, translucent forms of the ones Above than to the solid flesh forms of the mediators and the messengers. Ethan sighed. Once, when he was young, he had been as untainted as Josef. His travels Below had imposed a heaviness on him that constricted everything else. His wings had grown muscular and thick in compensation for the weight of his new form. It was disgusting.

“Has it really been so long?” he said, his eyes still fixed on Josef. “When I left, I had wings like yours.”

Josef’s expression was pure compassion. “You have suffered for your cause. You look … different. But your purity remains. I can see it inside you still.”

“I left here to find something, Josef. I found it Below.” Ethan clung to Josef’s kindness. It was divine. So different from the emotions he had seen and experienced Below. He felt a sudden urge to confess everything, lie down at Josef’s feet and let the angel heal him.

Josef’s eyes went wide. “Below, you say. How far Below?”

Ethan’s voice shook as he fought back the images and recollections that assaulted him. His angel’s peace seemed further from him than ever. “The deeper Below, Josef. The other world. You know, Below. Where we cannot see.”

“The dark stronghold?”

Ethan took a deep breath and felt his body tense involuntarily in preparation for the inevitable retribution. “Yes. Josef, you don’t know, you couldn’t understand … what I saw there. It was terrible. I am a different angel. It has tainted me.”

Josef smiled again. “But you willingly went there?”

Ethan looked at the bundle in his arms. “I had to. She’s my sister.” His voice rose above a whisper as he crooned the familiar word. “I thought I’d never find her.”

“Then you are not tainted. Flesh and body is one thing, your soul is quite another.” He reached out a hand and touched Ethan’s shoulder. Ethan felt warmth spread through his body, and calm settled over him, elusive in his own mind but radiating from Josef like sunlight.

“I know she is beyond redemption. But I had hoped …”

“The Guardian will decide, Ethan. You have done your part. There may be something we can do …” Josef’s voice turned wistful. “May I look at her?”

Ethan was perfectly still as Josef lifted up one of the rags. The face beneath it was bruised and battered, eyes swollen shut and skin scraped and caked with dried blood.

Josef inhaled sharply. “Who did this?”

“The ones Below. Her own people, essentially. Her wings are … ruined. I don’t know if they’ll grow back properly.”

“What did she do to make them do this?”

“I don’t really know, except that she seems to have turned against them. She stole something from the King, although I haven’t been able to find out what, or where she hid it.”

“If she turned against them, then to whom does she belong now?”

Ethan took a deep breath. “That’s what I’m here to find out.”

As if Ethan’s words had unlocked them, the doors behind Josef swung open.

“I think the Guardian will see you and hear your story,” he said, stepping aside. “Good luck to you both. I hope this isn’t the last time I’ll see you.”

“Thanks,” Ethan said. “I hope the same.”

He stood for a few seconds, collecting and hoarding the peace and calm that came from Josef’s presence. Then he stepped forwards into the shadows of the audience chamber to be heard and judged.

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